Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Story behind the Bain Story...or how depending on @factcheckdotorg or @GlennKesslerWP for facts can burn you.

Okay, so it turns out Mitt Romney lied (to a possibly criminal degree) about when he left Bain. No surprise there, these are his core ethics at work: do whatever you have to do, say whatever you have to say to close the deal, i.e: win the Presidency.

But the story behind the story is equally as interesting, if not more disturbing, and continues to call into question the quality of so-called "Factchecker" websites like and Glenn Kessler's column at the Washington Post.

Okay, basically the story is this. The President's Campaign team put out an ad saying that Mitt Romney was responsible for the layoffs perpetrated by Bain Capital. The Annenberg Center's labeled the attack unfair. The President's team pushed back, putting out a six page letter doubling down on the claim. Factcheck remained unconvinced.

Then, David Corn, he of Mother Jones and MSNBC (soon to be NBC News), picked up the ball and ripped out a really strong piece on his investment in Stericycle, a company that made money disposing of medical waste and aborted fetuses. Here's the key bit from that piece:

In 2001 and 2002, Romney filed Massachusetts state disclosure forms noting he was the 100 percent owner of Bain Capital NY, Inc.—a Bain outfit that was incorporated in Delaware on April 13, 1999—two months after Romney's supposed retirement from the firm. A May 2001 filing with the SEC identified Romney as "a member of the Management Committee" of two Bain entities. And in 2007, the Washington Post reported that R. Bradford Malt, a Bain lawyer, said Romney took a "leave of absence" when he assumed the Olympics post and retained sole ownership of the firm for two more years.
Okay, do we get that? Even though Romney has been saying over and over again that he left Bain in 1999, and has nothing to do, whatsoever with whatever bad stuff they did after that...a Massachusetts state disclosure form and a SEC Filing say otherwise.

And Factcheck and Glenn Kessler's reaction? To stand by their previous, lazy ass reporting.

Thus, David Corn decided to punch back...again:

Romney's actual departure date is significant. If he did fully leave Bain in February 1999, he is better able to argue that he cannot be held responsible for the firm's actions afterward—though he maintained his ownership interest in Bain and its various entities for years and, consequently, benefited from these deals. This past week, the Obama campaign has been tussling over this issue with, the independent fact-checking organization created by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. After the Obama campaign launched an ad blasting Romney as a "corporate raider" who "shipped jobs to China and Mexico," called the ad false, partly because Romney had exited Bain in February 1999, prior to the deals in question. In reply, the Obama campaign sent a six-page letter to the group, challenging its determination regarding Romney's departure. But reaffirmed its initial conclusion and told the Obama-ites their complaint was "all wet." Meanwhile, Dan Primack, a senior editor at Fortune, took issue with my article for noting that the SEC documents undercut the claim that Romney had no participation in any Bain decisions after February 1999.

Both Primack and were unimpressed by the fact that the Boston Herald reported on February 12, 1999, that Romney was not resigning but taking a leave, during which he would provide Bain "input on investment and key personnel decisions." pointed out that this story also noted Romney would "leave running day-to-day operations to Bain's executive committee," and the group cited an April 4, 1999, Associated Press story reporting that Romney was overwhelmed by his Olympian task and had no time for Bain. Primack insisted that the Herald story and a July 19, 1999, Bain press release referring to Romney as "currently on a part-time leave of absence" and quoting him speaking for Bain Capital were not all that telling, because when Romney left for Salt Lake City he probably "assumed that he'd still be involved in [Bain] decision-making, albeit from a distance," but ended up not doing that, due to his workload in Utah. Primack said he has "numerous sources," including many who were with Bain, who have told him that Romney did not make any investment-related decisions after February 1999.

What about the various SEC documents—some of which Romney signed—that identify him as controlling assorted Bain entities and large blocs of shares in firms in which Bain invested after February 1999? The Obama campaign letter cited at least 63 SEC filings after March 1, 1999, that describe Bain entities as "wholly owned by W. Mitt Romney." Both Primack and contended that these documents prove only that Romney continued on as an owner of Bain, not as a decision maker.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo also jumped on the bandwagon.

The gist of the disagreement comes down to this: There’s no question that numerous public filings and some contemporaneous press references say Romney was still running things at Bain after 1999. But his campaign insists that whatever securities filings may have said, in practice, he was so busy running the 2002 Winter Olympics that he actually had no role at Bain after early 1999. That’s possible in theory. But there’s no evidence for it besides self-interested claims by Romney. And there’s plenty of documentary evidence to the contrary. After all, what you tell the SEC is really supposed to be true.

But here’s the thing. I’ve found yet more instances where Romney made declarations to the SEC that he was still involved in running Bain after February 1999. To the best of my knowledge, no one has yet noted these.

The documents go into different aspects of Romney’s ownership of various Bain and Bain related assets. But in both Romney had to say what he currently did for a living.

And finally, one of my faves, Steve Benen worked it (providing, by the way, a lot of the timeline for this piece):

What Josh highlighted were two SEC filings from July 2000 and February 2001 in which Romney listed his "principal occupation" as "Managing Director of Bain Capital, Inc." At the risk of putting too fine a point on this, one cannot be gone from Bain in February 1999 and also be the managing director of Bain in February 2001.

Now, you might be thinking, "Does this really matter? What difference does it make exactly when Romney left Bain?" It matters quite a bit, actually.

For one thing, call me old fashioned, but Romney is supposed to tell the truth, both to the public and to the Securities and Exchange Commission. At this point, Romney's claims don't add up, and it's not unreasonable to ask for an explanation.

On a related note, it also matters whether or not Romney told the truth on his official financial disclosure forms.

And then, of course, there's the whole point of why Romney wants people to believe he left Bain earlier than the apparent date. The Republican candidate probably doesn't want to be on the hook for a series of controversial Bain investments -- again, see Corn's reporting -- and layoffs, which would help explain his competing explanations.'s editors appear to have accepted Romney's claims at face value, but the documentary evidence now appears to point in the opposite direction. Here's hoping they, and others in media, give this another look.

I guess its easy for and Glenn Kessler to take on Liberal Writers for a Liberal Magazine and Blogs. After all, let's call this game what it is: Factcheck and Kessler are more interested in their reputations as "impartial artibers of truth" rather than know...their job in getting the truth out there.

So what do they got to say now that the Boston Globe has gotten involved?

Government documents filed by Mitt Romney and Bain Capital say Romney remained chief executive and chairman of the firm three years beyond the date he said he ceded control, even creating five new investment partnerships during that time.

Romney has said he left Bain in 1999 to lead the winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, ending his role in the company. But public Securities and Exchange Commission documents filed later by Bain Capital state he remained the firm’s “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president.”

Also, a Massachusetts financial disclosure form Romney filed in 2003 states that he still owned 100 percent of Bain Capital in 2002. And Romney’s state financial disclosure forms indicate he earned at least $100,000 as a Bain “executive” in 2001 and 2002, separate from investment earnings.

The timing of Romney’s departure from Bain is a key point of contention because he has said his resignation in February 1999 meant he was not responsible for Bain Capital companies that went bankrupt or laid off workers after that date.

Contradictions concerning the length of Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital add to the uncertainty and questions about his finances. Bain is the primary source of Romney’s wealth, which is estimated to be more than $250 million. But how his wealth has been invested, especially in a variety of Bain partnerships and other investment vehicles, remains difficult to decipher because of a lack of transparency.


Also, it should be noted (as it was by Talking Point Memo's Josh Marshall), that The Boston Globe totally skunked David Corn and didn't mention his work at all the story. Stay classy, Boston Globe!

Meanwhile, Kessler and Staying with their original line.

Josh Marshall's reaction? (just as a highlight):

Meanwhile, Glenn Kessler seems to be sticking with his earlier claims that Romney actually did end his roll at Bain in 1999, hanging his hat on the fact that the former SEC official the Globe asked about documents had given money to Democrats. This strikes me as the feeblest crutch of contemporary journalism. The issue is the filings — not the person you found to give a quote about them.

Yeah, no hope of them staying classy there.

Folks, putting your total trust in any single one of these yahoos is asking for trouble. You cannot rely on a single arbiter to be your judge and jury over what is and isn't the truth. If you want to get the facts, then like Democracy itself, it's going to make you work at it. You've got to read multiple stories, and you've got to form that picture for yourself. Don't let the folks who claim to have "Fact" in their name do that work for you. As this an other instances have proven, you can't trust 'em.

What proof? Here's another instance.  (Granted this one's about Politifact, but the the claim remains the same):

Meanwhile, what has David Corn done now? He's done what a good Reporter should do. He's moved on:
EXCLUSIVE: Romney Invested Millions in Chinese Firm That Profited on US Outsourcing
The GOP candidate decries China poaching US jobs. But at Bain he held a large stake in a Chinese company that did just that. 
Last month, Mitt Romney's campaign got into a dustup with the Washington Post after the newspaper reported that Bain Capital, the private equity firm the GOP presidential candidate founded, invested in several US companies that outsourced jobs to China and India. The campaign indignantly demanded a retraction, claiming that these businesses did not send jobs overseas while Romney was running Bain, and the Post stood by its investigation. Yet there is another aspect to the Romney-as-outsourcer controversy. According to government documents reviewed by Mother Jones, Romney, when he was in charge of Bain, invested heavily in a Chinese manufacturing company that depended on US outsourcing for its profits—and that explicitly stated that such outsourcing was crucial to its success.
Lemme quote Josh one more time:
Read [David's new story] now before it appears as someone else’s exclusive.